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The Ultimate Reloading Manual
Wolfe Publishing Group
  • reloading manual
  • alliant reloading data
  • reloading brass
  • shotshell reloading
  • bullet reloading
The Ultimate Reloading Manual
hodgdon load data

.38 Special (using Sierra bullets)

Author: Brian Pearce / Wolfe Publishing Co.
Date: Aug 04 2020

The .38 Special first appeared in 1899 (some sources indicate 1902) and was designed specifically for the Smith & Wesson Military & Police Hand Ejector revolver based on the K frame (aka 1st Model of 1899 Army-Navy revolver). The case was based on a lengthened .38 long Colt and charged with 21.5 grains of black powder to push a 158-grain lead bullet to around 860 fps. During this era, nitro-based powders were evolving rapidly, and soon smokeless powder loads appeared.

Though primarily a revolver cartridge, the .38 Special has been chambered in a variety of guns to include target revolvers, derringers, single-shot pistols and even specialized auto-loading pistols (for match target competition with wad-cutter bullets) and rifles. The cartridge was standard issues in many police departments for decades. Today it remains popular and is finding favor when chambered in small, compact revolvers for concealed carry and personal defense applications. It is probably the most popular centerfire revolver cartridge the world over.

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